Five things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill

Lawmakers are already publicly floating ideas for a fourth coronavirus relief bill only days after Congress passed a massive $2.2 trillion package. 

The talks are in their preliminary stages, and any bill is unlikely to come together before both chambers return as soon as April 20. There are also plenty of hurdles as House Democrats signal they are moving quickly while Senate Republicans say they want to take a wait-and-see approach. 

But that’s done little to stop members from pitching their own ideas, or industries from asking for help if there’s more legislation. House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'Scary' to see uniformed troops on steps of Lincoln Memorial Pelosi: Democrats to unveil sweeping criminal justice proposal Monday Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters that she talked this week with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million IRS faces obstacles with remaining stimulus checks On The Money: GOP turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks | Millions of Americans frustrated by delayed unemployment checks | Senate votes to give coronavirus relief program more flexibility MORE, who negotiated the first three packages. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Here are five things being discussed as part of a “phase four” bill:

Infrastructure

Democrats and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE are seizing on Washington’s perennial white whale — a massive infrastructure package — as they discuss next steps for Congress. 

Lawmakers in both parties have talked for years about doing a substantial bill but haven’t been able to find a deal on the main sticking point: how to pay for it. 

House Democrats have discussed their own plan that they say would include new funding for water, broadband, schools and other infrastructure systems in a move that they argue could also create jobs amid record unemployment claims. 

Trump has also endorsed legislation, tweeting that “this is the time” and “it should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!"

ADVERTISEMENT

But the idea of doing infrastructure as part of the response to the coronavirus has run into a roadblock in the form of Senate Republicans. While some, like Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.), have pushed for infrastructure to be included in Congress’s response, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump vows to campaign against Murkowski after senator's criticism Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion Paul clashes with Booker, Harris over anti-lynching bill MORE (R-Ky.) and others have thrown cold water on the idea. 

“There is a reality of how you pay for it. We just passed a $2 trillion bill, and it would take a lot of convincing to convince me that we should do transportation in a way that's not credibly paid for after what we just passed last week,” McConnell told The Washington Post.

Gaps

Senate Republicans, while not committing to their own fourth bill, say Congress is likely to need to include “fixes” to the $2.2 trillion bill passed last week as part of whatever lawmakers do next. 

What that would entail, senators acknowledge they aren’t sure, but they say they expect there will need to be changes to the third bill, which came together in record time by Washington standards, or areas that Congress missed altogether as the coronavirus further bludgeons the economy and the number of cases grows. 

“I think phase four needs to first of all be focused on what we find are the shortcomings in phase three. There had to be some. There was no way we could put a package together that quickly, though we needed to put it together that quickly, and have not left some gaps. And we need to fill those gaps,” Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntCalls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress Washington prepares for a summer without interns GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. 

So far the changes have mainly been handled through regulations as the administration tries to provide guidance and rules for implementing key parts of the bill, including checks to individual Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance for small business. 

For example, after reports circulated on Wednesday that seniors who receive Social Security would have to file taxes in order to get the $1,200 in cash assistance, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Treasury Department was reversing course on the requirement. 

More cash payments

House Democrats are expected to ask for additional cash payments to Americans as part of the next bill. 

The third coronavirus package provides a one-time check of $1,200 to an individual making up to $75,000. The payment amount then scales down until it reaches an annual gross adjusted income threshold of $99,000, where it’s phased out entirely. An additional $500 is provided per child. 

But Democrats have warned that the one-time payment will not be enough for Americans who could be struggling to make monthly payments like rent and utilities. The administration initially floated two rounds of payments, but Republicans argued Congress should wait to make sure a second injection of funding was still needed. Opponents to the idea of cash payments, meanwhile, argue they do little to stimulate the broader economy. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Pelosi told CNN in a recent interview that direct assistance would come back up in a fourth bill, saying “we think we'll get more direct payments in another bill.” Several Democratic lawmakers have floated their own ideas since then, and Independent Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashMark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president Amash readying legislation allowing victims to sue officers The Hill's Morning Report - Trump mobilizes military against 'angry mob,' holds controversial photo op MORE (Mich.) made the case in a series of tweets for more cash payments, saying Congress needs an “immediate redo” of the third bill. 

State and local help

Democrats say they will push for more in stabilization funding for states and local governments. 

They were able to get $150 billion into the third bill, but that is significantly less than the $750 billion requested during the negotiations by Democrats. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters House Democrat demands answers from Secret Service about role breaking up White House protests MORE (D-N.Y.) signaled they would return to the issue, telling reporters “we’ll come back and give more” to the states. New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo says he 'never apologized' to NYPD for saying they 'did not do their job' CDC director warns Floyd protests could be 'seeding event' for coronavirus Former Obama aide goes off on looters: 'There are human beings that live in this goddamn neighborhood' MORE (D) was critical of the third bill, arguing that it did not provide enough funding for state governments. 

Meanwhile,128 House Members sent a letter to Pelosi on Thursday requesting that the next package include stabilization funding specifically for locations with less than 500,000 people, which they say were excluded from the money included in the third bill. 

ADVERTISEMENT

More than 20 Democratic senators also sent a letter to Schumer and McConnell arguing that any future legislation needed to fix how the District of Columbia was treated in the stimulus package. They argued that because Washington, D.C., was grouped with territories, instead of states, it missed out on approximately $700 million from the third coronavirus package. 

And Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Burr decision sends shock waves through Senate Lawmakers move to boost federal cybersecurity in annual defense bill MORE (R-S.D.) told WNAX that he expected the next bill would include “modifications” from the third bill but that he also wants the next package to include “revenue replacement” for states to offset a loss in sales taxes. 

Health care 

As the number of cases in the United States continues to grow — there were 236,339 cases in the United States as of early Thursday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University — lawmakers say more needs to be done to bolster the health care system. 

Schumer is calling for retroactive “hazard pay” for doctors and nurses and to “make that mandatory” in the fourth coronavirus bill. 

“I am urging President Trump to give all of the federal front-line workers hazard pay, and I would think a very important thing in our next bill is to require hazard pay for all of the front-line workers,” he told MSNBC’s Katy Tur. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy NSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general MORE (R-Pa.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators kneel during moment of silence for George Floyd 21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (D-Colo.) are pushing for Americans to wear masks in public. Toomey told reporters that Congress would need to look at if it needs to fund masks for the general public given shortages around the country. 

Democrats are also pushing for the next bill to include free treatment for the coronavirus, where symptoms can range from appearing mild like a cold or the flu to requiring hospitalization because of difficulty breathing and low oxygen levels. 

“Democrats will continue to fight ... for free coronavirus treatment in bill four," Pelosi told reporters during a conference call. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns Sanders: Police departments that violate civil rights should lose federal funding MORE (I-Vt.), discussing in a Facebook video what he wants in the next bill, said it was “absurd” that Congress had provided free testing but was not covering the treatment required.